The Chinese army is preparing to deploy 100,000 ducks to combat a locust outbreak in Pakistan, which has been declared a national emergency.
The crop-eating insects are thought to be a severe threat to China’s regional food security, which is why officials say that prevention of a locust invasion from neighbouring Pakistan is considered “the utmost importance.”
Locust numbers in Pakistan are the highest in more than two decades and parts of East Africa are experiencing the worst swarms in more than 70 years.
Senior Researcher at the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences Lu Lizhi told Bloomberg that platoons of ducks are expected to be sent to Pakistan as early as the second half of this year.
“One duck is able to eat more than 200 locusts a day,” Ms Lizhi said.
Ms Lizhi, who is leading the project alongside a Pakistan university, described the ducks as “biological weapons” that are “more effective that pesticides.”
Prior to deployment of the ducks, a trial is expected to take place in China’s western Xinjiang province in the coming months.
According to Ms Lizhi, contingent on a successful trial, ducks will be sent to the worst-affected areas across Pakistan such as Sindh, Bolochistan and Punjab provinces.
China has no plans to direct ducks to Africa, despite UN officials describing the outbreak as a scourge of biblical proportions” and “a graphic and shocking reminder of this region’s vulnerability.”
Soldiers have battled swarms in East Africa using hand-held spray pumps, while experts have said aerial spraying is the only effective control for the region.
The UN have appealed for urgent help in Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, recently raising its aid appeal from $76 million to $138 million.
“This funding will ensure that activities to control the locusts can take place before new swarms emerge,” the UN officials said, noting that to date only $33 million have been received or committed.
This isn’t the first time China have utilised a “duck army”, with smaller 30,000 flock deployed to Xinjiang to tackle a previous locust infestation 20 years ago.
The current outbreak was traced back to a cyclone late last year in Somalia which brought heavy rains that fed fresh vegetation to fuel the locusts that were carried in by the wind from the Arabian Peninsula.